Provoking Thoughts

"Consider your ways ..." - Hag 1:7

Volume 2 No. 2

Tuesday, June 11, 1996


The Atonement

Soldiers or Girl Scouts?

Powerless Preaching

Did Finney Use Excitement to Cause Revivals?

Redefining Terms

Contending for the Faith Once Delivered

Is Repentance Necessary?

Who are we?

The Atonement

Did Jesus really PAY for our sins? Do we really OWE a SIN DEBT? Does God look upon sin as an account whose books must balance or the person who sinned goes to hell? Is that really what the Atonement is all about?

First, let's consider what it means to OWE A DEBT. There is not necessarily any shame connected with owing a debt, unless you fail to repay it according to the terms agreed upon. There is no guilt associated with owing a simple debt. We might make a case about whether it is God's will for us to borrow or not, but the point is no one is condemned in our day for borrowing or owing a debt, so there is no shame or guilt associated with it. To owe someone implies that they retained ownership and only LENT it to you for a period of time. God does not OWN sin or have a monopoly on it, it is an attribute that does not belong to Him at all, but to US.

All that makes it pretty hard to apply the words "debt" and "owe" to sin, because sin is the willful transgression of God's law. Now anyone knows that breaking the law requires that you suffer the penalty, not that you pay the debt. When you break the law you are not a debtor, but a criminal. You cannot go to the sheriff and pay your

way out trouble, unless he is crooked. But God is not crooked and justice WILL be done in the matter of sin and judgment.

God gave his law and set the penalty for breaking his law. He said, "Behold, all souls are mine . . . the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezek 18:4) The penalty is punishment for breaking the law. It is not a debt that can be paid. Sin cannot be PAID FOR! There is no price that can undo sin! The criminal does not PAY for his crime by spending his life in prison. What he has done can never be undone by any price or punishment! He goes to prison to receive his just reward, which is punishment for the crime he committed - not to PAY for what he has done. Sin has a PENALTY - NOT A PRICE. Therefore, we do not OWE A SIN DEBT, but we are condemned to suffer the penalty for breaking God's law.

Now you must admit that there is quite a difference between "owing a sin-debt" and "being condemned forever to die!" It entirely changes the way we look at what Christ did for us on the cross. You see, there was nothing in God himself that was "satisfied" at the death of his Son, but the Law of God was fulfilled when Christ suffered our penalty for us.

Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. (Heb 10:5-6)

God did not desire the death of Christ, nor does He desire the death of the wicked. It is a matter of the government of God and whether it will stand or not. The Atonement is based on the love of God and his desire to redeem lost men who were created in his own image. It is not a matter of any "books" that must be "balanced" or on some bloodthirsty characteristic of God that must be satisfied. It is a matter of the Law of Almighty God being broken by men who must receive the just reward of their works.

God could not forgive sinners by simply laying aside the penalty of his law without making void his law and encouraging sin. God was right in the first place when He put such a penalty on sin, therefore to not enforce it would not only make God a liar, but would make his law and his word powerless suggestions, which would be ignored by sinners. What kind of King of the universe would God be under those circumstances? The only way for God's law to stand and hold it's power and force was for the law to maintain it's penalty. God himself came to suffer our penalty. He was made flesh and dwelt among us, tempted in all points as we are, but yet without sin.

But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; (Heb 10:12)

One preacher said it right when he put it this way: "Death said to Christ, 'They have broken your law, and your law says they must die.' Jesus was on the spot. He couldn't disagree with Death without denying his own law, so He said to Death, 'You're right, they've broken my law and they must die. So go ahead and inflict the penalty on them.' But then He stepped in front of us."

That is what the atonement is all about - the Just dying for the unjust; the Innocent dying for the guilty; God himself bearing the penalty of his own law to make possible a way for Him to forgive sinful men while keeping his law intact. This makes sin appear exceedingly sinful, doesn't it? It changes a lot of things when we look at it this way instead of as a mere financial transaction, or balancing books. It puts the power back in the message of the Gospel. It shows us the real goodness of God toward man that leads to repentance. It also shows the awful wickedness of ignoring the grace of God and neglecting this great salvation. To illustrate salvation as someone paying your debt for you is not correct. A better illustration, though yet crude, would be to liken it to being on death row for a crime you are guilty of committing. Some innocent person - say an innocent little child who has never committed any wrong - is put in the electric chair in your stead, and while you watch he suffers and dies, and you are set free. On your way out the door you laugh and turn and spit on the body of the one who just died in your stead. As bad as this sounds, it isn't nearly as bad as what sinners are doing when they resist the grace of God and reject the Gospel. They are trampling under their feet the blood of Christ. This poor illustration is only about breaking man's law and suffering only physical death. The matter of God's law and it's penalty pertains to eternal things. If the breaking of man's law brings fear and dread, how much more should the breaking of the law of Almighty God?

We are all concerned about the lack of Holy Ghost conviction in our day. People aren't convicted when they owe a debt, but they are convicted when they commit a crime. Do you reckon if we would preach the Gospel the Holy Ghost would convict sinners? Think about it.

Soldiers or Girl Scouts?

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. (Rom 13:11)

What is the Christian life all about? Is it a warfare, or is it more like a life of R & R? Is it like the armed services in times of war, or is it more like the girl scouts selling cookies, and bringing cheer to people? The reality is, that upon entering the Christian life, one enters the battle of all the ages. However, our enemy is pretty successful at keeping us lulled into thinking that all is well, and everything will turn out well for us, no matter what. Therefore, we drift along in passive carelessness. We are "ever learning" - like a soldier in training, but seldom do any real battling. It seems that only when tragedy strikes are we jolted back to our senses and to realize the seriousness of the battle we are in.

A soldier in the heat of the battle is very intense upon the business at hand. The bullets are flying around his head, the mortars are falling around him. He can feel the earth shaking, and hear the cries of his friends, and enemies alike, as their lives perish in misery and fear. The smoke, the smells of war and death fill the air he breathes, so that he cannot forget where he is or what he is about for one moment. The danger is REAL to him, but he has absolutely no choice but to keep fighting, until the enemy is defeated or his own life has ceased.

Our warfare is not carnal, but spiritual. We live in a day when there is so little spiritual discernment about anything that our enemy has very little problem keeping our attention on something else while he is doing his dirty work. We only awaken in time to hear his laughter as we are mourning for one who has fallen prey to his work. When the devil drops a spiritual mortar on us, it always brings a great loss to us in one form or another. A child we have nurtured from the cradle turns his back on us and God, to choose a life of sin. The devil drops another bombshell on us when the life of one dear to us comes to a sudden end because of sin. His fiery darts pierce us through when a trusted brother turns out to be a Judas Iscariot.

These things are just under the surface all the time. They are being prepared for someone under your preaching every time you preach. If there was ever a time to wake up and fight, it is now! But Sunday after Sunday, and service after service, panty-waisted preachers stand behind their pulpits and try to impress people with their knowledge, or comfort them in their indifferent, ungodly living. They use flowery speeches and lofty words and parrot the most popular preacher clichés and topics. Then everybody goes away "feeling good" for coming to the house of God, while the reality is the devil is preparing his big guns to fire on those very people. Most preachers seem to think that the most important thing about a church service is to "shout it out." They pump and prime and scold the people in order to prime them to some excitement. The only time many people think anything is accomplished at church is when people run the isles and shout. But that is not how you do warfare, dear friend!

If you would battle the devil, you must go on the offensive! You must attack him, his tactics, his workers, and everybody that sympathizes with him! You must give it all you've got! There was a major battle during the Civil War when the Confederates ran out of ammunition. Instead of retreating, they started throwing rocks until the Yankees had to retreat! That is how we must fight the devil! We must use every resource we have, every ounce of strength we have, and never, never give up, or let up! Do we believe in what we are fighting for or not? Any preacher that has a few years of experience has preached to people who sat and listened to him and later went out and committed murder, adultery, and all other manner of wickedness - or been the victim of such sin in others close to them. Reading these words may not affect you very much now, but wait until one of these is your own child! Wait until you stand by the coffin of a young person you have preached to and loved after the devil has murdered him with the wages of sin! Wait until the mortar hits close enough to you to awaken you back to reality! You will be ashamed when you realize that behind those faces that looked at you while you spoke so eloquently, the devil was doing a work, and you had not the spiritual discernment to know it.

We better forget the eloquence, lofty words, and praise of men and just Preach with all our might as if we were in the heat of battle, because WE are! We better FIGHT the good fight of faith while it is day! Night is coming, and it is coming fast! Where are the soldiers for the Lord? Where are a few good men? God doesn't need many. Won't somebody do battle? Is there not a cause?

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, . . . (1 Pet 5:8-9)


A great deal of preaching today is weak and pointless. It is so weak, if it was poison it wouldn't kill anybody and if it was medicine, it wouldn't cure anybody.

The point of a good deal of it seems to be to entertain the congregation and to help them like the preacher.

Someone said, "We are suffering today from a weak pulpit and pointless preaching. We have clever speakers but few prophets; we have too few fearless speakers for God and truth. We have the best paid and best educated ministry; but too much of it is popular, flabby, and insipid and stirs neither Heaven nor Hell."

Many speak as though their calling is to make people comfortable in their sin. Vance Havner said, "God pity the preacher who has grown cross-eyed watching certain faces in the congregation to observe whether the message is acceptable or not." God's message is "Repent." It is "Be ye holy." It is "Come out … be ye separate."

The average preacher reminds me of a radio personality many years ago; he always came on the air saying, "Is everybody happy?" [Editor: Another one claimed, "Something good is going to happen to you today!"] It takes courage to be God's man! Seems like few have it.

Spurgeon and a friend were walking when the friend pointed out a store with a sign in the window: "Wanted--50 tons of bones." Spurgeon said, "Yes, and mostly backbones!"

Preacher, better remind yourself that God is watching. Are you going to cater to the worldly, carnal crowd or be obedient to God? If there is one thing the Church of Jesus Christ needs in this hour, it is men who are afraid of nothing but God; men whose only ambition is to please the Lord of Glory.

A.W. Tozer said he noticed as a young Christian that many preachers "spoke so gingerly, so apologetically, that one got the impression that they would rather remain silent forever than offend anyone."

- Cornerstone Challenge

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)

Did Finney Use Excitement to Cause Revivals?

One of the charges most often made against Charles Finney was his "use" of excitements in the revivals he conducted. In a recent article by a certain fellow in Maryland he has been accused of "wearing people down" with protracted meetings. Holding meetings at unseasonable hours, supposedly to catch the people while their minds weren't clear, so as to "convert" them more easily. Use of the anxious seat, having new, overly zealous converts to take control of meetings, etc. All this is laid to his charge to try to prove that he would use any means to get a profession of faith out of the people. Finney never reported numbers, while Asahel Nettleton meticulously counted and reported his "results." That tells anyone with common sense volumes by itself. To hurl these accusations against Finney speaks of ignorance at best on the part of the accuser. At worst, it speaks of very wickedness. But for the benefit of these people and others who don't read for themselves Finney's writings and give the man a fair hearing we have picked out just a few quotes from ONE chapter of ONE book where Finney is discussing the matter of excitement in revival meetings, or excitement in matters of religion period. After you read these few quotes ask yourself this question: Does this sound like a man who is out to use whatever means necessary to get people to make outward shows of religion, or did he believe in preaching truth and letting truth do the work?

"Now, just so much excitement is important in revivals as is requisite to secure the fixed and thorough attention of the mind to the truth, and no more. When excitement goes beyond this, it is always dangerous. When excitement is very great, so as really to carry the will, the subjects of this excitement invariably deceive themselves."

". . . it should always be understood that excitement, especially where it exists in a high degree, exposes the sinner to great delusions.

"Where this has not been understood, and very great excitement has been rather nourished than controlled; where it has been taken for granted that the revival of religion is great in proportion to the amount of excitement, great evils have invariably resulted to the cause of Christ.

"But I have learned . . . to feel much more confidence in apparent conversions that occur where there is greater calmness of mind."

". . . the thing I would be distinctly understood to say is, that no effort should be made to produce excitement beyond what a lucid and powerful exposition of truth will produce."

"It is sometimes said, No matter how great the excitement is, if it is only produced by truth."

"I have sometimes witnessed efforts that were manifestly intended to create as much excitement as possible, . . . Indeed, where such a course has been taken, I believe it will be found to be a universal truth that evil, instead of good, has resulted from such efforts. The more I have seen of revivals, the more I am impressed with the importance of keeping excitement down as far as is consistent with a full exhibition of truth."

- Charles G. Finney (Revival Fire)

Redefining Terms

We recently read an article on Lordship and repentence in which a certain well-known preacher professed to be a staunch believer in both the Lordship of Christ and the necessity of repentance before a person can be saved. The only hitch was that he went on to give his own definitions of Lordship and repentance, and they were quite different than what we consider to be the true meaning of these words. This is just another device of the devil to deceive people. This man is attempting to fit into both camps. He wants to be accepted by the easy-believism crowd, and also by those who are preaching the true Gospel message. He thinks by twisting words and making up his own definitions he can accomplish this, but he will fail. God, and his Word never change, and men can redefine the meanings of words and doctrines all they want, but come Judgment Day they will find that they deceived themselves. Here are a few more words that have been redefined in recent times by those who are trying to defend the pitiful state of Christianity they are producing with their watered down, distorted doctrines.

1. Righteousness - no longer has anything to do with the way we live. It is entirely imputed to us by God. When we said the sinner's prayer we became as righteous as Jesus himself and if we do any righteousness after that it is only "filthy rags" in God's sight.

2. Grace - is simply "unmerited favor" now, instead of divine influence. It is a thing to be obtained, or a doctrine separate from God instead of God's influence and control over your life and mind. (Mercy used to be unmerited favor, so we must find another definition for it.)

3. Sin - is simply the condition in which we were born. It is something, or some power apart from us and our own wills. It used to be willful disobedience to God's law.

4. Salvation - simply means you are going to heaven when you die, whether you want to or not. It doesn't matter anymore how you live or what you believe - as long as you believe in Jesus. You can live your life on the road to hell, but if you POSSESS salvation, you have a free ticket to heaven. It used to mean a life of repentance, retribution, forgiveness, and love for God and others. It used to mean that you started going to church regularly; quit drinking, gambling, and cursing, and turned into a decent human being. Not anymore!

5. New Creation - is only that inward man that no one can see but God. We are a new creature in Christ, but we still have that old nature and that is what shows on the outside and controls us most of the time, you know. Used to be that folks understood we get a DIVINE nature when we get saved and "greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." The part about the "old things are passed away" has been dropped, because it doesn't fit anymore.

Contending For The Faith Once Delivered

Separating The Sin From The Sinner

"God loves the sinner, but he hates his sin." We've all heard that a lot, haven't we? It is one of the things that has weakened the church and the preaching of the Gospel. It has taken away any need for men to be broken in repentance and sorrow for their sin. Their sin is something apart from them. God hates their sin, but not them. He is angry with sin, but not with the sinner. It is as if God has a book where He keeps a running account of your sins and He is mad at the book, but loves the sinner. We can't preach about SINNERS in the hands of an angry God anymore, because He isn't angry with THEM, He is angry with their sin. The sinner says in his heart: "My sin is evil, my sin is wicked, but I'm not really that bad of a guy." He also thinks in his heart that his sin is not a part of himself. His sin is something independent of him; sort of like something that has happened, but not something he caused, or is responsible for.

This is a false teaching that needs to be thrown in the trash and not taught anymore. My sin is because of me - it is ME! I am the SINNER. It isn't something apart from my will and consciousness, it comes from an evil heart! I am the problem. God is NOT angry with sin, but with the SINNER. He is angry with the wicked every day! God is not going to put SIN in Hell - He is going to put the SINNER in Hell! God is going to judge the SINNER - NOT SIN! You cannot separate sin from the sinner.

It is not an account separate from the sinner that must be wiped clean, or balanced out, and he will then be a good man. It is his wicked heart that must be repented of. It isn't a matter of a "problem" that the sinner has that needs to be taken care of - HE is the problem HIMSELF.

Separating Salvation From The Saint

Salvation means "deliverance." When you save someone from a burning building, you get them out of the building. When you save someone from drowning, you pull them from the water. When God saves a sinner, He saves him FROM his sin. He gets him out of sin! The saved person doesn't continue in sin any longer. A saved person cannot live in habitual sin! Yet that is the teaching in most churches today - especially in Baptist Churches. A person is left in the same state as he was before he was saved. He has the flesh, and a sinful nature that he just can't conquer, and he is told that if he thinks he is living without known sin in his life he is fool, a liar, and he has deceived himself. Everyone sins every moment of every day in thought, word, and deed. Under that kind of teaching it is impossible for anyone to ever be right with God. Salvation, then, becomes something apart from the person; something really irrelevant to this life. It only comes to mean that we "are going to heaven when we die." But until then we must go on sinning and sinning every day because we just can't help it. If I were drowning I wouldn't want that kind of deliverance. Imagine yourself drowning and someone grabs your arm and lifts you out of the water for a moment, then drops you back in and leaves you there. What kind of rescue is that? Or you are in a burning building with no way out, when the firemen reach you and drag you to safety, then throw you back in the window into the fire. God doesn't deliver us from sin that way either! When God saves, HE SAVES TO THE UTTERMOST!

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Cor 10:13)

The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: (2 Pet 2:9)

Separating Grace From The Lord Jesus Christ

We have sat by and let the sovereign grace teachers, such as Augustine and Calvin, make a science out of the study of God. They have turned grace into a doctrine, or study, separate from the person of God. It is no longer the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, instead it is a theological idea, or teaching. But the fact is that grace is God's kindness, God's love, God's mercy, God's forgiveness, God's character, God's power, God's

presence. It is a manifestation of God! Grace is the direct influence of God upon the mind and life of a person!

If it is possible to separate God's grace from his person and make it simply a study of God, or a systematic theology, then it would be possible for a person to be "in" that grace and at the same time live in sin. Now no one could possibly say that God walks in sin. 1 John 1:6 says that if we walk in darkness and say we have fellowship with Him we are liars! God doesn't walk in darkness. But if you can just separate his grace from his person, then you could say you are in grace and yet continue in your sin.

Have you ever wondered why Baptists have the name "a sinning religion?" If you have tried to witness to very many people you have heard this response upon telling them that you are a Baptist: "Well, you people believe you can get saved and then live any way you want to." The reason for that is that it has been taught that grace is such that we can have the favor and blessings of God and still wallow in sin. "Even though I sin, God still blesses me. In spite of my sin, God is still 'on' me, and on my life. I have 'no condemnation'." They have turned the grace of God into lasciviousness. Let's CONTEND FOR THE FAITH ONCE DELIVERED TO THE SAINTS. After all, that is the only way into the real Grace of God.

Is Repentance Necessary?

Several years ago a prominent underworld figure attended a large evangelistic crusade. Realizing that the cause of evil would be weakened if this man would be converted, those conducting the meeting witnessed to him about Christ. One night they urged him to "open the door" of his heart and let Jesus in. The man supposedly accepted the Lord, but as the months passed his lifestyle remained the same. When confronted with this fact, the gangster said that no one had told him that in saying yes to Jesus he would be turning his back on his former life. After all, he reasoned, there were Christian football players, Christian cowboys, Christian politicians - why not a Christian gangster? Only then did they explain the need for repentance. Upon hearing this, the man wanted nothing more to do with Christianity.

Repentance is turning from sin, and it is still necessary in order for a man to be saved. I actually had a so-called King James Bible-believing, Independent, Fundamental Baptist preacher tell me the other day that repentance had "nothing whatsoever to do with sin" and that Jesus made "no such requirement." It is a pitiful day when any sinner knows he must repent, but goes to Baptist churches and hears he doesn't have to. €

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